By Teva Stone, DVM
As veterinarians, we see a number of dogs and cats with varying amounts of dental disease. Dental disease is often a subtle antagonist of health, and mild disease can remain undetected for some time, especially since our furry companions can’t speak to us. As such, it is recommended and beneficial to approach oral health from a preventative standpoint.
Dental disease in dogs and cats could perhaps be more appropriately thought of as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease takes into account more than just the teeth and/or gums; it also considers the jaw bone health, the health of the ligaments that hold the teeth in the jaw (the periodontal ligament) and all other oral structures that should/could be assessed when performing a routine oral health treatment for a dog or cat.
Dogs and cats can develop different types of periodontal disease- dogs tend to develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and can accumulate plaque that hardens on the tooth into something called “calculus”. Cats, on the other hand, develop gingivitis but less often produce plaque/calculus; instead, they more often develop lesions underneath the gums that eat away at the roots of the teeth. Both cats and dogs can also develop infection of their teeth and jaw bones, and periodontal disease can be very painful. Beyond its primary effects on the mouth, periodontal disease can also have effects on the health of the entire body, with some studies showing microscopic changes at the level of the kidneys, liver, and heart in dogs. Additionally, in humans, an association between advanced periodontal disease and cardiovascular health, the onset of dementia, and poor diabetic regulation has been identified.
Because of the nature of periodontal disease, routine oral health treatments (i.e. complete oral examinations, x-rays and scaling/cleaning of the teeth under general anesthesia) are important in the preventative health care for your own dog or cat, even if their disease is mild in nature. There can be unexpected findings on oral examination or x-rays, and these can be more easily addressed when found during preventative/routine treatments.
Once periodontal care at the veterinary office is done for the day, what can the owner do at home to continue with preventative care for their dog or cat? Fortunately, there are many products available to aid one in this endeavor at home, from rinses to teeth-brushing to chews. With the myriad of options available, one can be sure to find something that would fit the preference of their own furry companion. As a guide, look for dental products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal, which lets consumers know these products have undergone testing to measure their effectiveness in preventing/minimizing dental disease. You can also visit their website to view a list of approved products for dogs and cats.
Periodontal health is a big deal and may be overwhelming to consider as yet another aspect of preventative care for your beloved companion. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Call us to schedule a visit at Wellington Veterinary Hospital- we’d be honored to see your pet and be a part of their care team!
Dr. Melissa Hawley
Wellington Veterinary Hospital
Periodontal Disease. American Veterinary Dental College. 16 January 2019. https://www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html
The Consequence of Untreated Dental Disease in Children. California Dental Association. 16 January 16, 2019. http://www.cda.org/portals/0/pdfs/untreated_disease.pdf
Consequences of Periodontal Disease. The Veterinary Oral Health Council. 16 January 2019. http://www.vohc.org/periodontal_disease_effects.html